Surrey Wine School launched in Guildford and Dorking by former chief inspector
PUBLISHED: 20:21 02 January 2013 | UPDATED: 13:25 06 July 2014
It was during his time as a chief inspector with the Metropolitan Police that JEREMY BLOOD developed his interest in wine. And now, after a busy summer managing security operations at the Olympics, he has decided to concentrate on his passion and launch the Surrey Wine School. Matthew Williams met up with him to talk police, Pinots and the pick of the bunch...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2012
As a former chief inspector with the Metropolitan Police, who spent the summer worrying about security operations at the Olympics, Jeremy Blood is looking forward to a rather more sedate pace of life with the opening of his new Surrey Wine School – or, at least, that’s the theory anyway.
“I certainly shouldn’t have any problems handling a small group of mutual wine lovers,” laughs Jeremy, who will launch the first of his wine tasting classes in Guildford and Dorking this month.
“With the Olympics, things did get quite close to the line and it was only when the army boys stepped in that all our grand plans finally looked on track. But we got there in the end and it was an amazing event – even if I didn’t get to actually watch any of it!”
So setting up a wine school must be a piece of cake by comparison; right?
“Well, that was certainly my thinking!” says the 52-year-old, who lives in Dorking. “Though, whenever you’re at the early stages with something like this, it can be quite daunting. I was studying for my final wine exams while at the Olympics, but at least we’ll be the safest wine school in history!”
Jeremy’s passion for wine developed when as a former smoker he decided to quit after the passing of his father. Rediscovering his taste buds, his love of the vine quickly grew and he began to run a wine appreciation society in Kensington and Chelsea while working as a senior police officer in the borough.
“I then started planning my travels around wine,” says Jeremy. “I visited Napa Valley and Sonoma in California, and did tours of Rioja and Bordeaux etc – it’s a hard life! But it really set a seed in the back of my mind; that maybe there was more to this.
“One thing you realise is that, certainly historically, the French and Italians are much better at matching food and wine and maybe over here we’ve tended to just throw the kitchen sink at it and hope for the best.”
Surrey wine capital
He moved to Dorking with his family five years ago, having previously been based in London, and the irony that he is now living a stone’s throw from the country’s biggest vineyard has not escaped him.
“I was certainly persuaded by knowing I would be able to see a vineyard from the train every morning,” he laughs. “Denbies is such a lovely place to have on the doorstep and I hope in the long run we will be able to work together – how great would it be to travel the world with an all-day wine tasting and have a local vineyard visit in the middle!
“A few local independent wine shops have been really helpful as well, in helping me get this started. I’ve already spoken to The Vineyard in Dorking, Ranmore Wines on Ranmore Common and the Wine Reserve in Cobham and would like to speak to The VineKing in Reigate and Weybridge. I’m hoping my courses can complement what they already offer rather than detract in any way.”
To begin with, the Surrey Wine School will have three venues: at Two South Hill (until recently Cambio at the Castle) in Guildford and at the Stepping Stones and Little Dudley House, both in Dorking, offering evening tastings (with food and wine matching) and Saturday events, as well as four and eight-week courses.
“It will be very different from running a club in Kensington and Chelsea, but Surrey obviously has a very well travelled and educated population too. I enjoy being able to bring my adventures to the table, and sharing all these great wines I’ve found, in less formal surroundings.
“Wine can be intimidating but learning about it should be fun, and I hope these classes will appeal to people who have a little or no knowledge but want to learn more.”
Being a local and with the town having its own wine heritage, Dorking was an obvious launch pad for the Surrey Wine School and, likewise, Guildford, with its great transport links (“I wanted locations where people didn’t feel like they had to drive”). Jeremy also hopes to expand to Reigate in the future.
“I think we’ll have a very different crowd in Dorking and Guildford, but hopefully we’ve planned the courses well enough to appeal to commuters as well as people based in the town. It’s the kind of event that people could step off the train after work and enjoy a social evening at.”
Starting with a world of wine themed ‘tour’, Jeremy hopes to expand his courses to include evenings based on films (Californian wine tasting road trip movie, Sideways) or TV (the BBC’s The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), and maybe even a Surrey themed event. Some unlikely encounters from his time as a policeman could influence courses of the future, too…
“Funnily enough, I did my wine courses with Tom Gearing, who came second in The Apprentice, and his father owns Cult Wines in Kingston – so it’s a small world,” laughs Jeremy. “I was also the local police officer of the wine critic, Jilly Goolden. I knew nothing about wine back then, so maybe I could impress her with my new-found knowledge.”
With his obvious Olympic ties, I mention Lord Coe’s humble abode down the road near Farnham, but that’s a story for another day. First up, Dorking and Guildford, then maybe the world – or at least Surrey…
- For more information, visit surreywineschool.com, e-mail email@example.com or call Jeremy on 01306 898569 or 07436 072518.
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Jeremy’s top 10 wine tips
1. Everyone has different tastes so drink the wine you like, not what people tell you to like.
2. Don’t drink white wine too cold – chilling in a fridge for just an hour should be enough. Much more and you can kill the flavours and aromas.
3. You can chill lighter styles of red wine too (room temperature in the old days used to be a lot colder than now with central heating!).
4. Beware supermarket half-price offers – a wine reduced from £10 to £5 is normally worth about... £5!
5. Invest in some good pear-shape glasses that curve in at the top to capture the aroma – you will get more from the wine.
6. In restaurants, don’t feel embarrassed to ask the sommelier for a recommendation. He/she will be delighted to be asked.
7. Drink wine when it is young – very few wines benefit from ageing, and most wine is designed to be drunk within a year or two of harvest.
8. Store wine at home in cool, dark places not too close to radiators. The kitchen is the worst because there is too much fluctuating heat.
9. Try tasting different wines together with friends – a great way of differentiating and discovering new wines.
10. Learn more about this fascinating subject by enrolling for a course at the Surrey Wine School!